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Saturday, August 08, 2020

Ex-Punjab Irrigation Department official wins battle for seniority after 49 years

Major Joseph Baksh had joined the Army soon after the 1962 Sino-India war, but his 7 years of service as a soldier was negated by Irrigation Dept in granting seniority.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Updated: July 13, 2020 10:17:12 pm
Joseph Baksh (R) being given a farewell by Irrigation Dept colleagues before joining Army in 1963. (Express Photo)

Forty-nine years after he re-joined the Punjab Irrigation Department after serving seven years in the Army as Emergency Commission officer in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-India war, Major Joseph Baksh has won the battle for counting his seven years of Army service for fixing his seniority.

Major Baksh, who retired as Superintending Engineer from the Irrigation Department in 1995, has now been granted notional promotion to the rank of Chief Engineer with effect from the year 1988, a promotion which was unfairly denied to him while he was in service. It took the intervention of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to ensure Baksh got justice.

The 49-year struggle of Major Baksh, between his rejoining the irrigation department in 1971 to the Punjab government’s grant of seniority to him on June 25, 2020, is a classic example of a soldier’s sacrifice forgotten by government machinery.

Joseph Baksh joined the Irrigation Department as temporary engineer in 1962 through Punjab Public Service Commission. When the first national emergency was declared in 1963 and an Emergency Commission in the Army was offered to young men, Joseph Baksh was impressed by the call given by the then Chief Minister Partap Singh Kairon to join the Army.

“I received the Emergency Commission on July 15, 1963 and rejoined my department in March 1971. I was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers and served in the eastern sector during the 1965 Indo-Pak war. Before being released from the Army and rejoining my department, I was serving as an instructor in College of Military Engineering in Pune,” he recalls.

Major Joseph Baksh. (Express Photo)

Major Baksh says that when he left the Irrigation Department to join the Army in 1963 he was given a hero’s farewell by colleagues and senior officials, but when he rejoined he was treated very shabbily and not given seniority for the years spent as an Emergency Commission officer.

Even a judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court in his favour in 1997 failed to move the cogs of the administrative machinery and he was denied his rightful dues. And while Major Baksh was kept at an arms length, another similarly placed officer, Major J S Sodhi of Punjab Health Department, managed to get notional promotion citing Major Baksh’s court case.

In the meantime, Major Baksh had approached the previous SAD-BJP government for help and even met the then CM Parkash Singh Badal at a public gathering for hearing grievances but to no avail.

“Finally, as the normal channels of communication were not working, I approached the present Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for help. It is only due to his direct intervention that I have been awarded what was my rightful due when I was in service,” says Major Baksh.

The veteran, settled in Panchkula after retirement, now wants to take up a case for an increase in his pension since there is a considerable difference between what he is now getting as a Superintending Engineer and the pension of a Chief Engineer.

“It was an uphill struggle, but thanks to Capt Amarinder Singh I have managed to get a wrong corrected. I recall the lines of Rudyard Kipling who said, ‘In times of war and not before, God and soldier all adore, but in times of peace and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted’,” he said.

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